Chelsea’s Premier League campaign witnessed an unexpected blip on Saturday when they were held 1-1 at home by a struggling Burnley side. The Blues, who were reduced to 10 men after Nemanja Matic was sent off with 20 minutes to go, claim that the loss of of the two points was purely down to four refereeing decisions.
Jose Mourinho, who has in the past been frank and unforgiving in his assessment of games in the past, cut a stoic and restrained figure in his post-match interview.
“I think there are four moments where you can write the story of the game,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “Minutes 30, 33, 43 and 69 – the game had four moments, but do not ask me more questions, as I will not answer because I do not want to be punished.
“I cannot describe those incidents as, to do that, I have to use words that I cannot use and so it is better that we finish here. You do what you want to do, speak what you want to speak, you are not punished by that, I am, and I do not want to look silly in front of you, but I have to repeat: 30, 33, 43 and 69.
“I have nothing more to say, I am sorry,” he added, before saying: “I am surprised we did not lose all three points.”
We take a look at these four moments that could have a big say in the events in the near future:
1) Minute 30: Burnley striker Ashley Barnes fouls Branislav Ivanovic with a high knee. He escapes without any booking. Had the referee seen it clearly, Barnes may well have been sent off.
2) Minutes 33: Ivanovic, who scored the opener for Chelsea, shoots for goal and sees his shot strike the hand of Michael Kightly. The shot was on target and the midfielder’s arm was outstretched. It was blatant enough, but Martin Atkinson decides not to give a penalty.
3) Minute 43: Jason Shackell fouls Diego Costa inside the box and once again, Atkinson waves away the penalty claims. The Spanish striker’s reputation of going down too easily is used against him again, and Chelsea are denied another spot-kick.
4) Minute 69: Easily the most controversial of the four decisions. Barnes is at the centre of it all again, with a dangerous high-tackle on Matic that on another day, could have broken the Serbian’s leg. The Chelsea man is normally calm and collected, but his anger boils over as he retaliates by pushing Barnes to the floor. He is sent off, while, quite incredibly, the Burnley man escapes with no punishment.
Implications for Chelsea:
For one, the lead at the top has been cut down to five points. Man City, in both 2012 and 2014, won the Premier League after fighting back from seemingly unassailable deficits at the top. This weekend’s results will give them confidence that they can do it again.
Chelsea will now be without Matic for next week’s Capital One Cup final against Tottenham. The defensive midfielder has been one of the best player for the Blues this season and they have struggled on the odd occasion when he has been missing. He will also miss the league games against West Ham and Southampton, neither of which is a walk-in-the-park.
It is therefore, extremely vital how Chelsea deal with events in the next couple of weeks. They need to dig deep and maintain their lead at the top, while also picking up the first silverware up for grabs this season. That is, of course, easier said than done, with the kind of luck they have been having with refereeing decisions this season.